Body cameras become part of the equipment for a select number of Fairfax County police officers Monday. Officers assigned to the Mason, Mount Vernon and Reston police district, will be the first of a total of about 200 to begin wearing the bodycams as part of a pilot program. It’s expected all of the cameras will be distributed by mid-March.
The three police districts were selected for the program because of the diversity of the communities as well as the varying types of calls for service and incidents resulting in the use of force. Not every officer at each of these stations will be issued a camera.
According to Fairfax County police, officers are expected to activate the body worn camera during any law enforcement-public encounter related to a call for service, law enforcement action, subject stop, traffic stop, search or police service. The officer should start recording at their arrival/response, or as soon as it is practical and safe to do so, and leave it on for the duration of the incident. There are several circumstances and locations where officers will not record. They’re outlined in the full bodycam policy.
The bodycam policy was drafted with input from community stakeholders, including leaders of special interest, civic, and business organizations. There are several intricacies contained within the policy that address the personal privacy rights and constitutional safeguards of individuals while ultimately seeking to promote transparency and accountability in police-community member encounters.
The pilot program was recommended by the county’s police chief in December 2016 and was approved by the Board of Supervisors last year.
How can you see bodycam video?
All requests for body worn camera footage should be referred to the Media Relations Bureau’s Virginia Freedom of Information (FOIA) Compliance Section (FCPDFOIA@fairfaxcounty.gov) for proper processing. Costs associated with the review and redaction of all Body Worn Camera and In Car Video footage will be charged to the requestor according to Virginia Code Section 2.2-3704 (F).